The Observer, Duncan Castles: "Who would have thought the Premier League’s first Brazilian boss would relish an encounter like this? Long-ball, body-bruising Stoke City the weekend before a Champions League away trip should be a recipe for calamity, yet Luiz Felipe Scolari saw it as a joyful challenge to his old Gaucho scrapper’s spirit."
Sunday Times, John Aizlewood: "Chelsea’s week of heading practice might have been in vain, but they had done other homework. From first to last, they out-Stoked Stoke, eschewing width on the Premier League’s narrowest, most long-throw-friendly pitch and, seeing if the clothes of the underdog fitted, they harassed and harried their hosts."
Sunday Telegraph, Patrick Barclay: "Chelsea can cope with just about anything the Premier League can throw at them. Or not, as the case may be. Here, though Stoke lacked the hurling prowess of Rory Delap, it was a proper contest for a 24-minute period between the advent of Ricardo Fuller, the newcomers’ most exciting feature even when he is suffering from the after-effects of a virus, and the aspiring champions’ second goal, scored by the substitute Nicolas Anelka."
Independent on Sunday, Steve Tongue: "Another lesson in reality for a Premier League newcomer. Against a team missing Deco and Joe Cole, Stoke City kept out Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack, only to find a £16 million right-back scoring one goal and making another. Jose Bosingwa, much the best of the many expensive players Chelsea have signed in that position, was on the mark for the first time since joining from Porto and after a brave rally by Tony Pulis’s side he created a goal for Nicolas Anelka, a £15m substitute."
Official Chelsea FC Website, Andy Jones: "Ultimately, it hadn’t been entirely pretty, but the mission was accomplished as three points were acquired and taken back to SW6."
- Three points. Our first league game against Stoke City in twenty seasons ended as most expected it would, in a hard-fought victory. The feared threat from Rory Delap’s increasingly notorious throw-ins didn’t materialise after he failed a late fitness test with a tweaked hamstring. The Potters’ decision to narrow the dimensions of their pitch in an effort to maximise his menace proved in vain.
- The performance. While it wasn’t anything special, it was a better display than we managed against Wigan at the JJB Stadium. We controlled the play for extended periods with some slick passing and clever movement, particularly in the first half and at the start of the second, and we didn’t allow Stoke to bully us. The Potters’ physical game was never really going to be a problem, though – there are very few, if any, sides capable of out muscling us. In this regard, Jose Mourinho’s spirit lives on in the current team. Stoke keeper Thomas Sorensen kept the score respectable with some sharp saves, and their only real threat came from Mamady Sidibe, who proved quite a handful for Alex and John Terry. That said, Stoke offered hardly a danger until well into the second half.
- Jose Bosingwa. A constant threat, and at the heart of everything good about our attacking play. Scored his first goal for the club after some great build-up work from Kalou and Lampard (Petr Cech’s quick throw sparked the attack), and supplied the cross which eventually fell to Nicolas Anelka, who put the result beyond doubt.
- Frank Lampard. Another good performance. The only thing lacking was a goal; on another day he could have scored at least two. But his all round play and beautifully floated pass to Bosingwa made up for his uncharacteristic profligacy.
- The Stoke fans. I admit that it’s hard to gauge the atmosphere at a match when watching it via a somewhat sketchy Internet stream, but on this occasion there was little doubt that the Potters lived up to their reputation. The Chelsea fans seemed to give as good as they got, though.
- The middle period of the second half. We played some great football just after the break, but the introduction of Ricardo Fuller in the 53rd minute changed the game. Stoke manager Tony Pulis also gave his players a bit more freedom, and for about 25 minutes they caused us quite a few problems, so much so that I was getting a bit nervous. Felipe Scolari decided enough was enough and countered Pulis’s change of tactics with Juliano Belletti, who replaced a tired Didier Drogba. Three minutes later, Anelka put the match beyond doubt. Credit to Pulis and his team for making a game of it in the second half.
- Petr Cech: Didn’t have to put into action his ‘plan’ for dealing with Delap’s aerial threat, therefore had very little of note to do. Made a couple of great throws of his own, one of which led to the first goal – 7/10.
- Ashley Cole – Another energetic performance. Together with Bosingwa, he kept Stoke’s midfielders busy which allowed Ballack and Lampard to pull the strings – 8/10.
- John Terry – Copes better against teams who play a long-ball game, but still managed to get roughed up by Sidibe on a couple of occasions – 7/10.
- Alex – Coped with everything Stoke threw and kicked at him. Terry’s lucky to have two good defenders to play alongside him – 7.5/10.
- Jose Bosingwa – Some fine attacking full-back play. Scored his first goal and made the second. My Man of the Match – 8.5/10.
- Jon Obi Mikel – Calm, composed, no rash tackles. His goal line clearance in the second half was the closest Stoke came to scoring – 7.5/10.
- Michael Ballack – While he managed to misplace at least five passes, he was at the heart of all the good attacking moves, particularly in the first half – 7.5/10.
- Frank Lampard – The only thing missing was a goal – 8/10.
- Salomon Kalou – Started really well, but picked up a knock early in the first half and didn’t make it out for the second – 7/10.
- Florent Malouda – No longer looks like a liability now that his confidence has returned. Unlucky to come up against a keeper in good form, otherwise he would have scored his third goal in less than a fortnight – 7.5/10.
- Didier Drogba – Lacked match fitness but still managed to show us that he’s much better than Anelka, who is going to struggle to get back into the starting eleven if Drogba remains fit and focused. Forced a good reaction save out of Sorensen in the first half – 7/10.
- Nicolas Anelka (sub) – Came on at half time in place of Kalou. Wasted a great opportunity before scoring the goal which sealed Stoke’s fate. I really don’t think he cares enough, though. Scolari had this to say in midweek when talking about Drogba’s return to fitness and what it means for Anelka: "Any player who’s here for themselves needs to go somewhere else." Are Anelka’s days numbered? – 7/10.
- Juliano Belletti (sub) – Came on in place of a tiring Drogba and steadied the ship. Stoke were threatening to get back into the match before his introduction – 7/10.
- Paulo Ferreira (sub) – Not enough time – 6/10.
Man of the Match
For scoring his first goal for the club, and for his overall contribution to some splendid attacking play, I’m giving it to Jose Bosingwa. Midfielder of the Match goes to Frank Lampard (he deserves a mention here for being awesome).
Overall, pretty good. It’s winning these potentially awkward matches that will regain us the Premier League title. We’re top of the table on goal difference from Liverpool, who failed to score in their match against Stoke at Anfield last weekend. Arsenal could have returned to the top this evening, but they lost 2-1 at home to Hull (ha, ha, ha).
This was our sixth consecutive away win, and we’re unbeaten in the Premier League since losing to Arsenal at the Emirates last December.